Election Views – by Larry Barron

November 12, 2011

Pinnacle Ridge Revisited

Around noon on January 7, 2009 an engorged stream emanating from the Pinnacle Ridge development above East Road surged down the hillside and through several properties causing significant damage to houses and acreages along East Road. The cause of this washout was supposedly due to a funding shortage of the developer which resulted in planned drainage works not being built before the winter rains commenced, and in construction being shut down by Fisheries due to ongoing problems with sediment getting into the water and affecting the fish hatchery at Mossom Creek.

When asked at a council meeting on January 13, 2009, by affected resident Larry Kozakabout accessing the bond put up by the developer with the Village, Mayor Weinberg explained:

There is no bonding. And the reason there’s been no bonding is that there’s been no subdivision approval. There was a preliminary layout approval as normally occurs and then there is some approvals from Max our engineer, with respect to what the nature of the roads might be. There was a request then from Council that some roads be changed from 12 – 15 and that was approved. But no approval of the roads itself and no approval of the subdivision. The bonding occurs when subdivision is approved.

Tracy Green then asked:

…how is it possible that Pinnacle Ridge can be selling lots then on their website and have actually sold lots.

The Pinnacle representative, Tim Nye, responded:

There have not been lots sold; the superintendent of the brokers allows a developer to pre sell lots upon the filing of a disclosure statement….Pinnacle Ridge filed a…disclosure statement…and then presold lots and took deposits…

Mayor Weinberg then said:

And we have no authority with respect to these agreements that are made. The only authority we have is in respect to whether we give subdivision approval.

After some discussion, Larry Kozak warned:

…we’re talking about getting restitution from a developer that’s bankrupt, or close to it, they have no money. There’s a bunch of people in line already for money from them so we better have a better plan than to look for restitution from Pinnacle Ridge. They may have insurance, so that may be where we go. I’m shocked. Maybe it’s because I don’t understand this world at all but. I’m shocked that the city would put us all at risk by allowing the development of a high risk property without any kind of backstop like a bond, or anything like that. It shocks me.

Councillor Chris Sedergreen wondered:

One of the things I’m still trying to get my head around is this question of how a developer can start working on a large tract of land without any consultation with the Village. But it appears this is perfectly possible and permissible.

Resident Colleen Hackinen then zeroed in on these problems and proposed:

I don’t know what you can do about this now, but to prevent it in the future we do have a Tree Management Bylaw now which should have some benefit to not being able to strip the hillsides. Maybe another thing the Village should look at is using the Development Permit process that’s available in the Local Government Act which we don’t presently and maybe we could look at Development Permit Areas for (you know) risky kinds of developments. And what really concerns me is hot having the ability to bond earlier. You can do that with a Development Permit.

Passage and implementation of a development permit process for risky developments such as steep slope areas is essential. The Tree Management Bylaw, though a positive measure, must be beefed up. Currently it requires retention of only 20% of the trees on each lot, meaning of course that up to 80% can (and will) be removed. But the bylaw does not apply to all trees, only certain hardwoods, and the rest of the vegetation can be completely razed.

So take a look at the map of the proposed 22 lots for sale on Pinnacle Ridge, which I have superimposed on a Google Earth background showing the trees currently on the site. As you can see, about two-thirds of the trees still have to be removed from the Pinnacle Ridge hillside in order to put houses there.

Resident Jonathan Ho Yuen, already affected by the Pinnacle washout, voiced his concerns:

We’re not getting any indication as to where the problem is being dealt with in an appropriate manner, whether there’s concerns in terms of addressing an immediate response in dealing with this issue and I believe that financial matters surrounding Pinnacle’s situation may be part of the problem but I don’t believe that it is an acceptable means to avoid responsibility to take care of the residents who surround the property.

Mayor Weinberg replied immediately with his view of the Village’s position:

If Pinnacle turns out to be accountable for this, it’s their problem. The usual (and I’m not suggesting this) but the usual solution is that the person who is damaged by that takes legal action against the person who actually implemented that damage. What you’re arguing, I think, is that the Municipality has some responsibility as well.

So take heed: don’t look to the Village for compensation. But the Pinnacle washout and this council meeting occurred in January 2009. Why has the ruling clique on the current council, meaning Mayor Anderson and Councillors McEwen and Palmer-Isaak, since that time refused or neglected to institute a Development Permit Process, nor put any greater teeth into the Tree Management Bylaw? Why did these same councillors at a council meeting one month ago (October 11, 2011) either support or refuse to oppose a variance to allow an Oversize marketing sign for the Pinnacle Ridge subdivision? Why are they encouraging this steep slope development?

Whoever the new Council consists of after November 19th must make it top priority to implement both of these measures. As well theNoise Bylaw should be amended without delay to increase the range of fines for construction noise violations by developers, contractors, and large trucks from the current $100 to a range of up to $1000 for repeat offenders. This could have been easily done at any time over the last three years, and one wonders again why no action was taken by the current council. These measures will go a long way towards exerting Village control over rampant and sometimes dangerous development.

The election is just a week away. Study the issues and get out and vote!